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Nato to control Libya operation

Nato will assume command of all aerial operations - including ground attacks - in Libya from the US-led force that has been conducting air strikes against Muammar Gaddafi's forces.

Ambassadors have approved a plan to expand the previously agreed mission to enforce the UN arms embargo and no-fly zone by agreeing to protect civilians from attack by Colonel Gaddafi's ground forces, a diplomat said

After eight days of strikes on Libyan targets, Washington is eager to quickly hand off responsibility for air strikes to the alliance.

The unnamed diplomat said the transfer of authority from the US-led force may take a several days.

"Nato Allies have decided to take on the whole military operation in Libya under the UN Security Council resolution," Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said in a statement.

"Nato will implement all aspects of the UN resolution. Nothing more, nothing less," he said.

The UN authorised the operation after Gaddafi launched attacks against anti-government protesters who demanded that he step down after 42 years in power

The airstrikes have already tipped the balance away from Gaddafi's regular military to the lightly armed rebels, although the two sides remain at stalemate in key cities.

Nato expects to start enforcing the UN-authorised no-fly zone by Monday as well as co-ordinating naval patrols in the Mediterranean to enforce the arms embargo.

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